Shortly after the launch of the Game Boy and throughout the 90’s, fans of Nintendo products might have noticed something a little bit strange in advertisements for the handheld gaming juggernaut. See if you can catch it in the following advertisement:
Did you see it? In case you missed it, check out the header image for this article (courtesy of VintageComputing.com).
The Game Boy featured is not your standard run-of-the-mill Game Boy. In fact, though it is for all intents and purposes a standard Game Boy, you probably won’t be able to find this particular kind anywhere, yet Nintendo was nevertheless frequently using it to promote the product line.
The difference is all in the name. While it’s still called the Game Boy, the font found on the system itself is much larger and bolder in these ads. In fact, it’s the full Game Boy logo, as seen on the sides of many a game and accessory package, whereas the normal version is much smaller and has comparatively thinner letters. Have a look for yourself:
Not only are the words “Game Boy” larger, but the Nintendo logo has been moved from beneath the screen to the bottom-left side of the front of the device.
So there was a different design of Game Boy out there somewhere, apparently. However, at any time I’ve tried to bring it up, no one remembers it. Most don’t even notice it in the advertisements, much less remember if it was ever available in real life — or, conversely, remember it out in the wild, yet are unable to produce any evidence of it. Even ConsoleVariations.com doesn’t show it, nor any boxes which depict it.
Speaking from the point of view of a kid who didn’t even have a Game Boy to call his own, I was in to this design. Had I ever gotten one, I’d have wanted one with this logo plastered loud and proud across it, rather than the comparatively meeker version that was mass produced.
So what’s the deal?
I’ve reached out to Nintendo, but haven’t heard anything back as of press time, so I’ll go ahead and present you with my theory: This Game Boy was only seen in advertisements because it was only made for advertisements.
As noted, the mass-production models feature a much smaller logo, and when you’re trying to get word of your brand out, you want visibility. So for the purposes of television and print, the relatively tiny font wouldn’t do, and so they made a version with a bigger, bolder logo that could be easily seen from any distance.
Of course, why they wouldn’t want that same sort of free advertising from the face of the product itself is another question altogether. Nonetheless, this made the product unmistakable when seen in advertising — you may not know what game is on the screen, but you (or more specifically, parents) would know without a doubt what the screen belonged to.